Innocents At Home


Meanwhile, at 21 Fifth Avenue, Mark Twain and his crony, William Dean Howells, were having an agitated talk about the news. Twain’s biographer, Albert Bigelow Paine, came to call just as Howells was leaving Twain. “I thought he had an unhappy, hunted look,” Paine later wrote. Howells’ later comment on these events: “Gorky was expelled from his hotel with the woman who was not his wife, but who, I am bound to say, did not look as if she were not, at least to me, who am, however, not versed in those aspects of nature.” “I went up to the study, and on opening the door I found the atmosphere semiopaque with cigar smoke, and Clemens among the drifting blue-wreaths and layers, pacing up and down rather fiercely.” Paine had brought along a cartoon ( right ) clipped from yesterday’s World which he was sure Twain would enjoy—titled “A Yankee in Czar Nicholas’s Court,” it showed Twain using his pen as a lever to dethrone the Czar—but Twain wouldn’t even glance at it. Instead, he strode from the room.

That evening, facing the expected squad of reporters, Twain insisted that he was “a revolutionist, by birth, breeding, principle, and everything else. I love all revolutions no matter where or when they start,” but he was annoyed with Gorky’s behavior and was afraid, he said, “that Mr. Gorky has seriously impaired —I was about to say destroyed—his efficiency as a persuader.” When the reporters questioned him about the gala dinner, Twain replied that he didn’t know what the committee (which he headed) would do and that he could answer more adequately after speaking to the members. Meanwhile, he added, “I believe in sticking to the flag until the last minute.” When he went on to say that if the contemplated dinner did not take place it would only be because no satisfactory date had been found, the last minute seemed to have come and gone. Two days later, Twain resigned from the committee. The dinner did not take place. (On the night for which it had been tentatively scheduled, Twain addressed a fashionable and politically unassailable gathering—the Robert Fulton Memorial Association-at Carnegie Hall. Andrew Carnegie himself was there. Cornelius Vanderbilt III presided. Music was provided by the Old Guard Band.) The rush to entertain Gorky now reversed itself. John Mitchell of the United Mine Workers called to say he had no time to visit Gorky; the Aldine Association scratched its luncheon plans; a speech scheduled in Boston was cancelled because of “this horrid news”; and the White House announced—a gratuitous uninvitation—that neither President Roosevelt nor his Secretary of State would see the Russian novelist.

Shortly after four that afternoon, Mr. and Mrs. Scott accompanied Gorky, Mme. Andreyeva, and Burenin downtown to the Lafayette-Brevoort, on Fifth Street and Fifth Avenue, and a new suite of rooms was found for them. They were scarcely settled when Mr. Antoine Lablanche, the manager, called on them. They might take their meals at the Brevoort, in a private dining room, Mr. Lablanche said, but he regretted to add that they might not sleep in his hotel. He offered, however, to find rooms for them across the street at the Rhinelander apartments, an offer that they gladly accepted. While Gorky dined at the Brevoort, a porter, coached to say only that “a foreign family” was coming, moved their luggage across the street and into the third lodgings of that hectic day. After dinner, Gorky and Mme. Andreyeva drove off to the Grand Central Palace.

A great crowd, largely of Russian nationals, undaunted by the World ’s revelations, had come to the Palace for a concert and ball given to raise funds for the revolution, and when Gorky and Mme. Andreyeva entered, the orchestra was drowned out by cheering. The music stopped, and people climbed on chairs to get a glimpse of the novelist and his “friend,” as Mme. Andreyeva was being called now. Men helped women onto the backs of the chairs, the chairs tipping and tumbling down in rows and the women screaming as they fell—but all this was little noticed amid the applause and shouts that greeted the couple. After a short speech, Gorky and Mme. Andreyeva left the Palace. Then, according to the Times , “order was restored, the broken chairs were removed, and dancing began.” Gorky and “friend” had gone on to the Berkeley Lyceum to see a performance of Ibsen’s Ghosts .

When they returned to the Rhinelander at midnight, they found their trunks and bags piled up in the lobby. The manager, Frank Geraty, had discovered who his new guests were. Earlier that evening, someone had walked into the lobby with what he said was an important letter for Mr. Gorky—Geraty knew of no one by that name living there. Later, a bill was serat over from the Brevoort—$12.40 for dinner and removal of bags—marked “Maxim Gorky.” Geraty then conferred with a superior and was told that Gorky must go.

Although he tried to joke about sleeping in the street that night, Gorky was now disturbed and angry. A carriage was ordered, trunks and bags loaded on, the whole party—young Peshkov was along—climbed up into the seat, and with Burenin crying out, “Drive us to some first-class hotel,” they set off again. They drove to the Hotel Victoria on Broadway at Twenty-seventh Street, but Peshkov, after getting down, turned at the door, stepped back into the carriage, and ordered the driver to take them to Grand Central Station. There they got out, and as far as the public or the newspapers knew, they simply vanished.